The Minister for the Family and Social Solidarity, Michael Falzon and Opposition speaker for social and family affairs Claudio Grech have announced a Bill for the protection of minors. Minister Falzon said that the principle of this law is for decisions to be taken in the best interest of the children. This Bill will bring into effect various protection orders for minors. It will establish alternative protection which is more open than that which currently exists and gives adequate protection to minors who need some form of protection.
The Bill has made some changes to fostering, including the right of those who foster children to travel with minors after they notify the agency, and that after five years they can ask to adopt the children they are fostering. Prior to this, the time period for a request for adoption was ten years.
The Minister said that this law is introducing a new concept of a children’s guardian in the case of children who need more protection because of their vulnerability. He said that where there is child abuse, a professional is obliged to make a report, but if the report is done in bona fede and it results that no abuse had taken place, no legal action can be taken against the professional.
The law provides for a protection order where instead of the children being taken away for the family, treatment and care will be given to the family where there are certain challenges. The law will provide for a children’s lawyer, and in the case of an emergency care order, the Duty Magistrate needs to appoint a children’s lawyer to follow the case.
The Opposition speaker for social and family affairs, Claudio Grech said that since the beginning of the legislative process of this law, the Opposition has worked hand in hand with the Government. Mr Grech said that the Opposition believes that this process will lead to an improvement in the circumstances which exist today. He said that the main message of the Act is that everything possible is being done so that these children are not robbed of their childhood. He added that the crucial point is that when decisions need to be taken, for these to be taken immediately so that the children will suffer as little as possible. Mr Grech said that the supreme interest of this law is what is best for the children.